Artists who put their music out there for free are the most kick ass. They give us ways to appreciate music without buying into the consumerism/capitalism/monopoly that surrounds the music industry. (Here’s a great infographic about how the monopoly controls the radio, and why we always hear the same 5 songs over and over… but this is a whole other discussion for later).
But to get to the point, here, I proudly present some of my favorite discoveries over the last couple of years.
Bambu, formerly of the Native Guns. He’s a father, MC and community organizer, raised in the Watts district of LA. He raps about everything from his Filipino-American identity to the injustice of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Recently, he’s been working with Prometheus Brown (from the Blue Scholars), dropping a debut EP titled Walk into a Bar, and a newer song, Lookin’ Up. Download these and a couple more of his mixtapes here and here. I especially recommend Something (video below: trigger warning – domestic violence), which I saw him perform live… he has such a powerful presence on stage; I got totally sucked in by his intensity. Until I can go to another show, I’ll be checking things out on his tumblr – which is where I found Prometheus Brown’s newest rap which describes the recent gun violence in his city, Seattle.
Model Minority, a fun rap group consisting of D-One, Grand Master Chu, and Inglish, Asian-American emcees who “banded together to represent the lifestyles of young modern Asian-Americans.” They’re songs range from serious to ridiculous, covering topics like violence against Asians (Vincent Chin), to yummy Asian things (Asian Food Rap), to Chinese remixes (Black and Yellow). Download all their mixtapes for free here (i.e. you can name your price as $0 – but why not support good music for a couple of bucks?) Nowadays, Grand Master Chu does solo work as Jason Chu, releasing songs like R.I.P. (Pvt Danny Chen) and Hard Work (Jeremy Lin). His newest free EP, Goodbye Beijing, is based on his two years in China. As for D-One and Inglish, they’re doing their thing as the Fung Bros, who you already know from videos like The Jeremy Lin Effect.
Magnetic North and Taiyo Na have a free sampler of their album, Home:Word. Magnetic North consists of emcees Direct and Theresa Vu, who came together to write a song for an Asian American rally in Berkeley, California back in 2003. Taiyo Na is a a singer, songwriter, MC, producer and actor from NY – my favorite song from him is a tribute to immigrant mothers (with a video based in Philly’s chinatown):
Das Racist isn’t all that underground anymore, since they caught the attention of GQ Magazine and the New York Times. Nbd. But their mixtape, Shut Up, Dude, is still free here. And Sit Down, Man, is free if you tweet about them. The trio consists of Victor “Kool A.D.” Vazquez (Afro-Cuban and Italian descent), Himanshu “Heems” Suri (Indian-American), and Ashok “Dapwell” Kondabolu (google is failing me). I like them because they’re blunt, sarcastic, and just sing about whatever the f*ck they want. I haven’t yet heard much of their newer music, but apparently Suri joined the board of SEVA NY, a community org serving the working-class immigrant community in Richmond Hill, Queens. Through this org, he released his first solo mixtape, Nehru Jackets (free on their website), which is a collaboration with SEVA youth members who rap in Punjabi.
That’s enough for a start, but if you want more, let me know. I’ll send you a bunch
[photo courtesy of here]